Disney Part 3 – What makes the church different from Disney World

It is important from my perspective to listen more than one speaks, so I have included over the last two weeks 7 things the church can learn from Disney World. They include:

1. One Word Message.
2. Hospitality.
3. Evangelism.
4. Character Breakfasts.
5. Recognizing Rites of Passage.
6. Anticipating Needs.
7. Remembering Your Roots; but Looking to the Future.

It is also, however, important for us to speak articulately about what makes us different from Disney (or any other corporation) and why we believe that is important. I offer here three things Disney (or any other corporation) could learn from us…

1. People are not commodities. As great as the Disney Corporation or any other company may be, their purpose is the same – to make money. The reason they market so well, welcome you so eagerly, brand their story to you, imprint logo and characters so well into the mainstream, cultivate participation, take care of you and keep their mission clear is solely to increase the profit margin. That does not make them evil by any means; it just makes them a business. The church for all the ways it can be compared to a business is not a business. The church exists to bear Christ in the world. It does require people, money and ideas to do that as an organization, but the church exists to give away what is costly for free; salvation in Jesus Christ. We treat people as beloved children of God, created in his own image. While we are imperfect in the way we carry out that mission; we do what we do to serve the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of that image of God born in every single human being. It is that same flesh that Jesus was born, suffered, died and rose again. It is to that Lord we point to as we serve.

2. Seeing the world for what it is, and what we can offer. It is hard not to get caught up in the Magic of the Disney experience while at Disney World. Children probably see it a little differently, but as I enjoyed every single minute there I knew it was completely manufactured. I was exploring a side ally in one of the parks when I was redirected by a lovely cast member who told me not to go that way. “What is back there?” I asked. “The garbage,” she replied. “We don’t want anyone to see that.” We live our lives sometimes so sanitized from the garbage that we might not know what to do with even if we saw it. Disney does a great job of sheltering their guests from what is ugly and keeping their parks “perfect” in every way possible. But the world is dirty. The world is full of garbage. The world is full of suffering and injustice and is bombarded by evil. The church stands in a unique position to call a thing what it is, but not despair over it or try to run away from it. The savior of the world faced it head on. He changed lives and changed hearts. He made friends and he made enemies. Humanity killed him by the garbage dump and hoped he would go away. Those who continue to proclaim him alive and risen from the dead 2000 years later know that as they get their hands dirty for the sake of others this risen Christ goes with them. We are called to name things for what they are when we see them – unjust, dirty, wrong, indecent, sanitized, or anything else that dishonors the creation and its creatures God calls, “good.” Yet we know Christ came and died for such a reason, and we should not be afraid to get out hands dirty in the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) in which we participate. Does that make us superior or perfect? Far from it. But in our imperfection and sinfulness stands a cross – a symbol of shame, suffering, torture punishment, and death. In such a sign comes the promise of its opposite – life, salvation, forgiveness and new life. The gospel does not bring escape from the world; it provides faith to serve it.

3. When you wish upon a star, your dream does not always come true. Any person of faith who has suffered on any level will generally tell you that it was the power of faith that sustained them through their troubles, even amidst uncertainty and impending death. Faith in a living, personal, ever present, risen Savior who knew death and promises his resurrected life to all who follow him offers a new reality to a world consumed by death and pie in the sky aspirations. Faith is not wishing upon a star. Faith trusts the promise “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20) as the truth. The Magic may fill our heart for a fleeting moment with possibility, but sooner or later reality reminds us of our limits, and life teaches us that we cannot always have what we desire. Faith faces those limits with confidence and the gratitude of the moment. Magic may last for a few short days. Faith sustains a lifetime.

At the beginning of these three reflections on Disney World, I shared a quote from a young pastor who was asked by a non-Christian friend if he could summarize his faith in one word. Many of you have shared your one word with me, and I am grateful for your sharing and taking that opportunity to reflect. My word is “incarnation” that is, that God in Jesus Christ is present, in the flesh, here among us, always. For me it is the centerpiece of how the gospel fits together and how I (and you too!) are called to take part in it. It is the common strand that runs through what I think we can offer to not only Disney World, but to all those around us.
Now it is your turn. What does your one word say to those around you? How does that word inspire you? Trouble you? Assure you? Challenge you? What about that word draws deeper questions? Together we’ll keep finding Christ in the asking.

Peace to you, by the One who is and will be forever,

Pastor Geoff

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
(Revelation 1:4-8)


About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Change Proponent, Goofball, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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